Thursday, April 7, 2011

David Lee Summers: A variety to savor

David Lee Summers is my guest on the blog today. Welcome, David.
Please tell us a little about yourself.             

Thank you , Susan. I'm the author of four science fiction novels and two vampire novels. I have edited two science fiction anthologies and I edit a science fiction and fantasy magazine called Tales of the Talisman. In addition to writing and editing, I'm an astronomer who operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. I love to delve into the history of places I've lived and traveled to.

Tell us about your latest book. Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

My latest novel is a vampire adventure/romance for adults called Dragon's Fall. Spanning the ages from Hellenistic Greece to 15th century Transylvania, it tells the story of three vampires who come together to form a mercenary alliance, as well as their loves won and lost along the way. The novel is being released as five ebook novellas. Once all five novellas are released, the whole collection will be gathered together as a print novel. Part two of the series, The Dragon's Quest, has just been released. You can learn more about the series at       

My latest novel for all ages is called The Solar Sea. It tells the story of humanity's first voyage to the outer planets aboard a solar sail spacecraft. Along the way, they discover clues that suggest humans might not be alone in the solar system. The novel is available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats. You can learn more about this novel and see a book trailer at           

What are you currently working on?

I just sold my seventh novel, a Steampunk adventure called Owl Dance that tells the story of Sheriff Ramon Morales who meets a beguiling Persian woman named Fatemeh Karimi. When an ancient lifeform called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. I'm currently waiting for the first round of edits from the editor. We're tentatively looking at an autumn release.

I'm also formulating a collection of stories centered around the band of space pirates from my novel The Pirates of Sufiro. In the novel, the pirates are marooned on a distant world. However, I've recently been writing short stories set during the time when they are still raiding ships and being scourges of the galaxy. In essence, this new book would become a prequel to the novel.

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? If so, in what way?

Absolutely! I think I have become better at crafting believable and unique characters who each have their own voice. Also, I feel like I'm better at crafting plots with interesting twists that come to a satisfying conclusion. It's all been a matter of practicing my writing, then reading good books and stories by authors whose work I admire, and effectively comparing notes. It's also important to go through life with your eyes and ears open, listening to people and understanding the ways people are alike and different. An author needs to understand what motivates people.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others? If so, why?

My two most challenging novels were Dragon's Fall and Heirs of the New Earth. In both cases, I felt like I wrote myself into a corner and had to set the books aside for a time before I could finish them. In Heirs of the New Earth, the protagonist must travel into an alternate reality to solve the central problem of the book. As I wrote, I felt like the novel was getting too surreal and I had a difficult time suspending my own disbelief about what was happening. In the case of Dragon's Fall, I felt like I was getting too bogged down in writing history and wasn't telling the story of my characters.

Looking back, the problem was that I didn't have a clear idea of either book's ending when I started. As a result, I lost sight of my characters and their stories. In each case, I set the book aside, then came back to it a few months later and wrote an outline of the novel as it stood and looked at the plot threads. I found where I had gone astray, cut out sections of each book, added some new material, and then set myself on course again.

David, this is excellent advice for all struggling writers. I think most of us have learned how important it is to put the book aside for a while and look at it later with fresh eyes.
Do you have an other specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

After struggling with Heirs of the New Earth and Dragon's Fall, I'd been asked to write a number of short stories for anthologies. Doing that, I developed a technique of coming up with an idea, writing out a few paragraphs of description, then going away and fleshing it out in my mind. Basically, I got into the mode of "visualizing" the story in the same way as I might recall an event that had happened in real life. Doing that, I could sit down at the keyboard and recount the story rather than try to invent it while staring at a blank computer screen.

I have to do the same thing. Somtimes my best thoughts come while I'm in the shower. LOL.

I ended up expanding that technique for Owl Dance. Only this time, I did it chapter-by-chapter. I started by envisioning the overall layout of the book. Then I wrote a paragraph to describe each chapter. When it came time to write each chapter, I would flesh the idea out a little further on paper, then go out for a walk and visualize the events more fully. Once I was satisfied that I knew what happened, I would sit down and write the chapter. So, in essence, I used an outline to develop the plot and stay on track, but I also stepped away from the computer and visualized the story in depth without actually writing. This allowed my characters speak in their own voices and do the actions in their own unique way.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Growing up and living in the Southwestern United States with its history and character has strongly influenced my writing. I loved science fiction from a very young age, but my parents preferred westerns. Now westerns and science fiction really have a lot in common – they both have action and adventure and tell stories of exploring and taming new frontiers. I've often borrowed from local history and reworked the stories into science fiction realities. In Owl Dance I turned that around and imagined my local landscape as it might be influenced by mad scientists and even aliens.

As noted in the first question, I work at an observatory. Of course, seeing the science that comes in can give me ideas for science fiction, but the job has also influenced me in less obvious ways. As a telescope operator, I work almost exclusively at night. At one time, one of my co-workers and I talked about how we were the vampires of the mountain. This particular co-worker was also a fan of vampire fiction and introduced me to some good books. That ultimately led me to write some of my earliest vampire stories

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

The general clearing house for information is my website:

For breaking news, check my blog at:

People interested in my vampire novels can get information at:

David, thanks for taking time for the interview. I wish you continued success!

1 comment:

David Lee Summers said...

Thanks for the interview, Susan. Much appreciated!